BACOLOD CITY – The Philippine Army’s 3rd Infantry Division (ID) has dismissed claims of human rights violation as it welcomed any independent investigation on the clash that claimed the lives of six Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army (CPP-NPA) fighters in Kabankalan City, Negros Occidental last week.
Maj. Gen. Marion Sison, commander of 3ID, said soldiers “strictly follow” the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) rules of engagements “at all times” and are “reminded to always observe and abide by the provisions of the International Humanitarian Law and the Rule of Law”.
“We are confident and we firmly believe the said encounter was a legitimate one. We welcome any inquiry to this effect by any independent party,” Sison said in a statement Monday night.
He added that the investigation would “eventually clear and vindicate” them from various allegations of human rights violation.
On the night of Sept. 21, troops of the 47th Infantry Battalion engaged a group of communist rebels who fired at them in Sitio Lubi, Barangay Tabugon, the 3ID said in a previous report.
Soldiers responded to the reported presence of armed men demanding food and money from the residents, it added.
Sison said the claims against the soldiers are “mere propaganda designed to discredit security forces and purposely crafted to ignite the ire of the populace against the government.”
“Those who died in the said encounter were top cadres of the communist-terrorist group. Their long record of notoriety is well-known in southern Negros or the CHICKS (Candoni, Hinobaan, Ilog, Cauayan, Kabankalan, and Sipalay) area,” the Army official said.
The fatalities, all from NPA South West Front (SWF) Squad 2 of Sangay Yunit Propaganda Platoon 3, were identified as Alejo “Peter/Bravo” de los Reyes, squad leader, and his wife Melissa “Diane” de la Peña; Marjon “Kenneth” Alvior, vice leader of Squad 2; Bobby “Recoy” Pedro, vice leader of Squad 3; and Mario “Reco/Goring” Fajardo Mullon, medic of Squad 1.
The sixth fatality, a female, has yet to be identified.
Information released by the 3ID showed that in the past three years, the group was responsible for various atrocities, including the killing of church pastor Lonie Lahaolahao, the ambush of two soldiers, and the burning of construction equipment in Sipalay City; the ambush of two other Army personnel in Cauayan; torching of construction equipment in Kabankalan City; and shooting to death of an Ilog resident.
One of the firearms recovered by troops after the encounter was a caliber .45 pistol, with serial number 005075 AFP issued to Sgt. Regie Glindro, one of the two soldiers executed by the NPA rebels in Sipalay City in November last year.
Sison enjoined Negrenses to be “more discerning about the (CPP-NPA) narratives.”
“We should not simply accept and believe their messaging hook, line and sinker. We appeal to the public to exercise discretion towards this end,” he added.
On Monday, Vincent Parra, officer-in-charge of the Commission on Human Rights in Negros Occidental, said their team will proceed to Kabankalan City this coming Sept.28 to start an investigation into the encounter.
“We have to know who were the six who died. We don’t have information on it yet. There is a claim that the six were ambushed. We have to validate it. All these are still allegations,” he told reporters.
Parra said they also have to conduct a motu proprio investigation since among those involved were from the vulnerable sector, particularly women, one of whom was believed to be pregnant. (PNA)